The news of prospecting on the Algarve coast, with a view to the exploration of hydrocarbons, is, pass the analogy, raising waves with the tourist industry.
This apprehension of the “impact on tourism” is somewhat incomprehensible to me. What impact might hypothetical explorations have on tourism? It won't be for the visual impact of the platforms, as their location, miles from the coast, safeguards sensitive tourist eyes – those who survive Quarteira's “skyline” survive everything. And in the Caribbean, a tourist's paradise, platforms abound.
The real danger is linked to the environmental threat that has started to overshadow the Algarve coast, associated with structures for the exploration and transport of hydrocarbons, and which can generate much more serious problems than the flight of tourists.
So let's call seafood by its names.
An environmental disaster of nature that occurred on the Deepwater Horizon platform, from April to July 2010, and devastated the Gulf of Mexico, would represent the death of the bulk of coastal life in the Algarve, where most of the population is concentrated. Its ecosystems, fauna, flora, fishing, riverside towns, etc..
Hydrocarbon exploration is, in fact, a potential Pandora's Box. Extracting volatile compounds, stored in the earth's crust at brutal pressures, in a commercial and quick profit logic, where security procedures tend to be overlooked, is synonymous with risk. It's big.
Is everything bad? No of course not. The presence of natural resources means wealth, without a doubt.
But to speak of the wealth coming from hydrocarbons in a region that wastes an incalculable source of energy that flows from renewable sources (sun, wind, tides, waves) is to compare lupine to lobster… or crayfish.
For example, the Sun delivers, within an hour, on the Earth's surface, enough energy to supply the energy needs of the entire human species for… a year!
And to think that the companies responsible for prospecting and eventual exploitation orient their action in the best interests of Portugal, namely in the resolution of our energy bill, is, to say the least, puerile. Business is about making a profit, here or on Mars. Point. And if there is a sector that does not shy away from showing it, it is the oil companies.
But, above all, it is important to remember that the consumption of fossil fuels is one of the main factors in the aggravation of the climate change scenario that puts us, as a species, at risk, and forces us to rethink the “energy beast” that sustains our model of society, as well as the way in which it is fed. Sustaining the fossil fuel paradigm as a salvation is not even stagnating in time: it is going backwards.
Thus, the scientific knowledge that comes from the prospecting that begins is welcome. Planning and management are only reliable if based on information.
On the other hand, any hydrocarbon exploration will have to be carefully analyzed and weighed, within a cost/benefit logic (where risk is a fundamental part) and comparison with the alternatives available from renewable sources - where it seems to me that there are options far more effective and with less investment, perhaps captivating the same investors who are now presenting themselves.
May the black of the current crisis not spill over into our future through desperate decisions.
Text from: Gonçalo Gomes
Note: The author writes according to the old Spelling Agreement